The year that has just begun features many uncertainties, from the war in Ukraine to inflation, but also one certainty: the pivotal role of Southeast Asia
"ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth." That is, "ASEAN matters: epicenter of growth." This is the apt slogan chosen by Indonesia for its 2023 rotating presidency of the Southeast Asian bloc of countries. After successfully hosting the G20 summit in Bali, the Indonesian government confidently embarks on its next goal: to coordinate the diverse positions and interests of ASEAN member countries, maintain the unity of the bloc, and further elevate Southeast Asia's stature as a global growth center. It is a mission made less complicated by the trend in the area already in the past few years. In spite of all the difficulties created first by the Covid-19 pandemic and then by the war in Ukraine with its many side effects starting with inflation, the region has held up brilliantly. Perhaps one of the most interesting stories to tell is that of Vietnam, which grew above 8 percent in 2022, the highest figure in 25 years. But it is not just about data and percentage points of gross domestic product. Also counting in a positive way is the openness predisposition always maintained by the bloc, albeit with due differences and discontinuities among member states. In 2023, Indonesia will try to make all these elements "count" even more on the international level, while on the regional level it intends to maintain its focus on expanding economic cooperation at the bloc level. Jakarta will also try to build consensus on food and energy security by strengthening supply chains. There is no shortage of complicated challenges on the domestic front as well, chief among them the crisis in Myanmar, an issue on which the Indonesian presidency will try to make significant progress. Never losing sight of the fact that free trade has been a key driver of Asia's development in recent decades, and Southeast Asia has long been showing that it wants to avoid at all costs not only so-called economic decoupling but also a new cold war in which major powers push everyone else to choose sides. The motto of the Indonesian chairmanship reiterates that ASEAN's choice is one of economic growth and trade integration.